Posted by Joe Lawrence

"If you do not know others but know yourself, you will win one battle and lose the next"  - Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Sure, Don Corleone probably wasn't referring to wiffles when he instructed a generation of gangster prodigies about the best way to spite their enemies. But whether it's understanding the most opportune time strap a pair of cement boots to your treacherous brother, or knowing that an opposing HRL hurler is about to launch a full-count splitter your way; the premise remains the same:  Familiarity with one's foes helps to assure victory.

Sun Tzu: The original backstabbing bad mamma jamma

  In 2005, we'll see firsthand which teams are ruthless enough to take these old proverbs to heart, as HRL clubs will be given the opportunity to get reeeal friendly-like with some of their most bitter competition. The new schedule, passed down from the commissioner's office earlier this week, places a renewed emphasis on divisional rivalries. Under the new format, teams will play nearly 40% of their games within their own 4-way divisions, and in some cases, will end up after-game schmoozing with their sworn nemeses more than two-thirds of the time (In the Western Conference NL, for example, the Padres and Braves will play in the same city, on the same night, 11 of the 16 weeks this summer).  While all that elbow rubbing on bar stools could certainly bolster new and old friendships, it will also, more than likely, help to breed some good ole fashioned contempt. But such love-hate relationships as these is what wiffleball is truly all about …good friends, who share a few laughs, getting together to try and utterly humiliate one another on the field.  Quite frankly, does it get any better than that?

With playoff bids guaranteed for each divisional champ, the competition between these quad-packs of teams could get down right brutal. Crafty wifflers will be looking to gain any edge they can throughout the season. So those seemingly friendly chats, post games at the pub, may be an ideal time for an opportunistic adversary to get just a little bit closer to figuring out his enemy.  Casual, and oft times inebriated, comments like, "Man, I just can't hit Billy's sinker", or "Dude, trust me, always jump, never slide to avoid getting thrown out" may seem trivial at the time, but someone, somewhere, will undoubtedly hold onto these small nuggets of info in order to grab the upper hand. Understanding an opponent's strengths and tendencies raises the level of play, and later games between these commonly close factions are likely to get rather intense.

Is this Shirley's cutter or change-up?
You can bet your sweet buns that the Braves will know by season's end


Mark your calendars right now for the last three weeks of the regular season, when division rivals will square off for the second time. With the playoffs on the line, expect these groups, who appeared to be chummy all year long, to turn on each other quicker than a gang of weight watchers on a slice of cheesecake. Although we'll all certainly miss being able to play every other team in the league this season, come late August and early September, the revised format may end up leading to some of the most exciting batch of wiffles we've seen thus far. Play your cards to your chest; beware the dudes sharing your pitchers of brew; and remember to always keep your enemies closer.

Posted in: HRL

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